In order to define whether the Hancock Shaker Community, or the Shakers as a whole, are separatist in nature, there needs to be set concepts about what is a separatist community.

A separatist community, unlike a secessionist movement, is based on the concepts of greater autonomy for a cultural, tribal or religious group that seeks to distance themselves from a larger group, often society as a whole. While a secessionist movement is based on the need of a group to completely separate themselves from another country or government for the purpose of full autonomy and self-sufficiency, a separatist group seeks to have its own space and more autonomy that would be present as a religious group within the confines of a city or state space.